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  Nice Girl Like Me, A And Baby Makes Two
Year: 1969
Director: Desmond Davis
Stars: Barbara Ferris, Harry Andrews, Gladys Cooper, William Hinnant, James Villiers, Joyce Carey, Christoper Guinee, Fabia Drake, Irene Prador, Erik Chitty, Tottie Truman Taylor, John Clive, Douglas Wilmer, Ann Lancaster, Miriam Margolyes, Nicola Cowper
Genre: Comedy, Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Candida (Barbara Ferris) was a pupil at girls' boarding school when she received the bad news: her father had died in an accident and she was now an orphan. Understandably upset, she really had no one to turn to except her aunts for she didn't have any friends, being a daydreamer most of the time, so it was agreed that while the family home in London should be kept for her to stay in when she was old enough, in the meantime she would live with Aunt Mary (Gladys Cooper) and Aunt Celia (Joyce Carey). This was all very well, but it did leave her somewhat stranded in the countryside, with still no friends to speak of (or to), so when she had the chance to get out and see life with a trip to Paris, she jumped at it - however, she would get more than she bargained for.

The opening titles don't offer much hope for A Nice Girl Like Me: after a plainly overage Ferris unconvincingly essays the schoolgirl role, there unfolds a series of colour supplement images shot in gauzy tones accompanied by a strident ballad, all seemingly determined not so much to invite you in with a gentle beckoning, but more frogmarch the viewer into a tale that may well be suffocating in its twee quirks. And indeed, that was the way it was regarded at the time, as a glossy exercise in marrying cinema advert visuals to a would-be daring plot about unmarried motherhood, some way away from the nineteen-sixties "issue" films and TV plays that offered audiences and commentators alike something to get their teeth into. Cathy Come Home or Up the Junction this was not.

All that said, and those naysayers did have a point, funnily enough this has aged rather better than might have been expected since it conforms to the Swinging Sixties stereotype fairly comfortably; though it remained a shade artificial as an experience as a nostalgia piece it came across very well, and much of that was down to the central relationship. We may think that will be Candida and Pierre (Christopher Guinee), the arty French poseur she meets on her holiday, but after a brief, passionate affair all she has to remember him by is her pregnancy. A single mother in this era, so we're led to believe, was nothing short of scandalous and about as far away from the "nice girl" of the title as it's possible to get, though director Desmond Davis, adapting Anne Piper's novel, is determined to prove Candida genuinely is what it says.

She doesn't tell her aunts she is with child, at any rate, but she cannot consider an abortion, she tells herself she doesn't agree with it on moral grounds, but then neither is she planning to give the baby up for adoption, as we perceive the real reason: Candida is desperately lonely and having someone to look after will also provide her with company. That said, though she doesn't catch on till late in the story, she actually does have a friend, and he is Savage, the caretaker of her London town house, played against type by that great dependable of British cinema, Harry Andrews. Here he showed a tender side as he, as his job description suggests, takes care of the heroine and eventually her child (who is played by future actress Nicola Cowper in a career that she could truly say began before she could walk), but her troubles with men don't end with baby Valentine.

Still wishing to see something of the world, Candida sets off for Venice with a maiden aunt sort, Miss Grimsby (Fabia Drake), ostensibly to take a tour of the churches but when her companion takes a turn, she instead enjoys another holiday romance with American tourist Ed (the tragically shortlived William Hinnant). He thinks it's simply a fling, a bit of fun, and Venice does evoke a dreamland as Davis's soft focus photography goes into overdrive, but the protagonist was hoping for a more lasting relationship Ed is not able or willing to give, and they go their separate ways, amicably, as far as she is concerned not without regret as he was a nice guy. What happens next is predictable, but in keeping with the lightly comedic mood that tinges its humour with melancholy, and Ferris proved an appealing presence in one of her final chances at catching on with the public to become a star. Alas, her sixties movies may have become cult favourites for some - her immediately previous film Interlude especially - but they never propelled her beyond that, so you can appreciate this and wonder what if? Music by Patrick Williams.

[Network's DVD has no extras, but at this price is worth taking a chance on. The print is soft, but then that's how it was intended.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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